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Allen Ginsberg

(3 June 1926 – 5 April 1997 / Newark, New Jersey)

A Supermarket in California


What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the
streets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.

........................
........................
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  • Michael Schuler (10/16/2009 6:16:00 PM)

    James: Interesting observation. I have not read Garcia Lorca's bio, but had read about his interest in Harlem and the experience of blacks in America and interpreted the reference to Garcia Lorca as a humorous reference from one transgressive poet (Ginsberg thinks that store security is following him) to another. (Report) Reply

  • James Brusseau (9/18/2009 3:11:00 PM)

    I too was confused by the meaning of the poem. I was thinking it was just a funny, kind of silly remembrance of Whitman, fooling around a bit with simple grocery store items. Then I read the bio of Frederico Garcia Lorca (a man mentioned in the poem) and an entirely new meaning became blindingly obvious. Lorca, was really devastated about failed homosexual relationships. His two major love interests, one interestingly enough was Salvador Dali, went on to have marriages with women. This is a poem, asking the question of, What does America hold for me the homosexual? The answer is a sad: 'we'll both be lonely.' I won't quote continued lines from the poem, but if you want to feel seem empathy for Ginsberg, Wikipedia Lorca and then reread the poem and focus and the words that are addressing a sense of disenfranchisement from the empty promises America was making, viewed in the context of post World War II feelings that were surfacing and no doubt helping to form the Beat Generation. (Report) Reply

  • Gregory Collins (12/14/2007 5:43:00 PM)

    somewhere west of Mandalay, ginsberg is the wilderness inside yellow rapeseed flowers, a cry of dust from the soul town (Report) Reply

  • Brian Dorn (7/25/2006 9:52:00 AM)

    Lots of visual fun in this but profound at the same time, particularly the end. (Report) Reply

  • Bryan Castro (2/20/2006 3:26:00 AM)

    The poem mainly hits absurdity. It has even included one of the great literature man of his time, sir Walt Whitman, a very wise move or an unruly one for the part of Ginsberg. Anyway, the poem touches where it is bound to coil. Enjoy. (Report) Reply

  • True Ataraxy (1/18/2006 10:47:00 PM)

    There seems to be confusion about the correct lines of this poem.Like many beat poets, Ginsberg worked a lot with the line placement. Ginsberg plays with enjambment and endstops as a matter of humour in this poem. As I know it it should be:

    What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for
    I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache
    self-conscious looking at the full moon.
    In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went
    into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
    What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families
    shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the
    avocados, babies in the tomatoes! -and you, Garcia Lorca, what
    were you doing down by the watermelons?

    I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber,
    poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery
    boys.
    I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the
    pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
    I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans
    following you, and followed in my imagination by the store
    detective.
    We strode down the open corridors together in our
    solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen
    delicacy, and never passing the cashier.

    Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in
    an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
    (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
    supermarket and feel absurd.)
    Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The
    trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be
    lonely.

    Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love
    past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
    Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher,
    what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and
    you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat
    disappear on the black waters of Lethe? (Report) Reply

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